by Marilynn Preston

Looking to boost your well-being? I’m a big believer in home gyms. You wake up, throw on what passes for workout clothes … or nothing … and before you can find an excuse to skip it, you’re walking the treadmill or pumping the weights and spreading joy throughout your body.

Yes! What could be better? No time-sucking commute to the gym. No monthly dues. No comparing yourself to the thinner and more buffed in your spinning class. (Never ever do that.)

At home, it’s just you and the practice and your growing awareness that regular exercise is the rock solid foundation of a healthy lifestyle. You’ll gain strength, reduce stress, and duh, you’ll make your body great again. Exercising at home burns pounds of calories. But keep in mind: You can’t outrun your fork. If weight loss is your goal, a home gym is a dear friend, but it’s no substitute for smaller portions and a personal ban on processed foods and sweetened cola drinks, especially the ones with fake sweeteners. So make space, even if it’s the corner of your bedroom or a portion of the family room, and need I mention … far from the fridge.

MAKE IT INVITING

Your workout space can be small, but if it’s nasty – a dirty basement, a stuffy attic, a chilly garage – you’ll find a reason to avoid it. Treat it like the sacred space it is. An area with natural light, fresh air and no clutter is the feng shui ideal, but if that’s not possible, start with what you’ve got. Make it clean and appealing. A yoga mat and a fresh flower in your living room can work wonders on your mind and body. Your space doesn’t matter nearly as much as your intention.

FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT YOU SPEND 

I don’t know what your budget is for home gear, but two things I do know for sure: First, investing in your own wellness is money well spent. And second, don’t buy cheap stuff. It will feel junky, and you won’t use it. If you’ve got $5,000 or more to outfit an entire room, be thankful, but you can get just as fit for $500 or less, using free weights, stability balls, jump ropes, resistance bands, etc. It’s easier than ever to find high-quality used gear – online, in specialty stores – but it’s best to try it before you buy it, to make sure everything feels good and sturdy

PLAN FOR CARDIO, STRETCHING, STRENGTHENING 

For a balanced workout, your home gym should have at least one solid piece of aerobic equipment (a bike, a treadmill, an elliptical cross-trainer, your choice), plus space and gear for stretching and strengthening. If you’re new to exercising, buy some time with a personal trainer (or consult with books, DVDs, etc.) and get started on a home routine that will safely deliver the results you want.

MAKE IT USER-FRIENDLY 

Equip your space with whatever it takes to make your workout enjoyable. Music can be a great motivator. Watching TV or reading a book while you work out are options, but exercise purists think these distractions make your workout less effective. To get into the zone of peak performance, focus your attention on your inner body, your breathing. If you prefer to be distracted, no blame.

Retreating to a workout space you’ve created mindfully – embellishing it with photos you love, stones you’ve kept, quotes that inspire you – will exert a powerful influence on your willingness to come back to it. And don’t forget to add a meditation pillow to the mix, even if you’re not sure what to do with it. Someday, if you keep your brain healthy and curious, you’ll want one.

KEEP A JOURNAL

To make the most of your home gym, show up every day. Keep a notebook and jot down every workout, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Note the date, what you did and how you felt. If writing intimidates you, do it anyway. It’s fine to keep it simple. Keeping track in a journal helps you develop the habit of a daily exercise practice. I promise you that when that happens, your whole life will change in remarkable and delicious ways.

Marilynn Preston is a healthy lifestyle expert, well-being coach and Emmy-winning producer. She is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.